Garnethill finds peace in green space and wildlife after trauma of art school fires

By Ian Marland at

A community rocked by the Glasgow School of Art fires is using nature to heal its scars.

Residents of Garnethill have been working together to improve the area’s green spaces.

On Sunday, the community will celebrate progress so far at its Village Gaitherin’.

Community garden

Photo: Friends of Garnethill Green Spaces (FROGGS)

The celebrations will take place along a green corridor – from Garnethill Park, to a community garden on Garnethill Street.

The greening of Garnethill which takes in Dalhousie Lane has taken on added significance since the fires.

Margaret Watt at Friends of Garnethill Green Spaces (FROGGS) says the work has been bringing the community together.

‘Very difficult’

She told Glasgow West End Today: “It’s been a very difficult year for a lot of people in Garnethill.

“This has been about healing and using nature as a source of wellbeing, caring for the environment and moving on.

“There are still some people who are not ready yet to engage with the community after the fires.

“But for those who are coming out, we are creating the space for them to get out.”

Strawberry plant

Photo: FROGGS

It is five years to the day (May 23, 2014) since the first fire, and nearly a year on since the second blaze (June 15).

Investigations and enquires are still ongoing and restoration of the world-famous Mackintosh Buiding is many years away.

Jane Sutherland is chair of the local community council, that was worked with FROGGS to put on Sunday’s day of festivities.

She said the events of recent years had left a deep impact on the community.

She said: “I think the whole neighbourhood is still recuperating.

“We are not even at the first anniversary (of the second fire) and there is still a lot of work to do to even restore access to Garnethill.

“I think the whole neighbourhood is still recuperating.

“We are not even at the first anniversary (of the second fire) and there is still a lot of work to do to even restore access to Garnethill”

Jane Sutherland

“It’s been crushing really, and are we trying to bring back some celebratory zeal to the neighbourhood.

“A lot of the folks who were displaced are still quite shocked.

“But there are several folks who have got really involved in the planting.

“The art school have been exceptionally helpful.

“They have employed a liaison officer to work with the community.”

Harriet Simms is the community engagement officer who has been employed by the art school.

It has been her job to repair links with the community amid the mistrust and anger.

Glasgow School of Art after the fires

Glasgow School of Art after the fires. Photo: Paisley Scotland

She said: “Since starting in November I have been meeting local residents, businesses and groups in the area to start to understand how The Glasgow School of Art can better partner with and support Garnethill.

“Through these conversations a number of projects and partnerships have started to develop.

“The Garnethill Village Gaitherin’ is one of them and we hope it will be a day of fun for local residents and an opportunity to celebrate the neighbourhood.

“We hope that as many people as possible will come along and enjoy the festivities.”

Sunday’s event will feature street food and pizzas from a hand-built bread oven in the park.

There will be stalls, artists, music, bike displays and banner making.

Encouraging

One of the stalls will be hosted by Glasgow-based natural bird feed maker Garden Crowd.

Gabby Morris said her company was working with the Garnethill community on a shared mission.

She said: “We have just become a social enterprise to fulfil a larger purpose of encouraging wildlife back in to the city.

“Our mission is to support people to encourage more birds and wildlife in towns and cities.

“We are based in Glasgow, so it makes sense for us that Glasgow is our first project.

“We are looking to branch out with Glasgow still at the hub – and Garnethill is our first community group that we are working with.”

* Garnethill Village Gaitherin’ is on Sunday May 26 from midday to 4pm. Admission is free.